When Charlie VanBibber was 8 years old, a diagnosis of juvenile diabetes changed her life.
Because her body does not manufacture insulin — a hormone that converts sugar, starches and other food into energy — she has to track it daily to make sure her blood sugar is not too high or too low. If her blood sugar is not at the right level, she could feel short of breath, get dizzy or have a seizure.
“You have to watch exactly what you eat. It’s draining when your numbers are too high or too low,” said Charlie, now 17. “It’s never going to be easy.”
But events like Saturday’s 14th annual Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Walk in Columbus give her hope, she said.“It makes me think they might find a cure for other kids,” she said.
About 600 walkers completed the three-mile course at Rotary Park to raise money for diabetes research. Walk Chair Dian Naman said they hoped to raise between $80,000 and $100,000 and 87 cents of every dollar would go to research for a cure for juvenile, or Type One, diabetes.
Naman’s 23-year-old daughter was diagnosed with Type One diabetes when she was 10 and Naman said she still calls her every night to check on her. Beyond the daily struggle to keep insulin levels balanced, Naman said the disease can also lead to eye problems, lost limbs and kidney damage.
“You cannot forget you have diabetes,” Naman said. “You’re walking this fine line, until we find a cure.”
Nancy Hiers was part of a group of school nurses from the Muscogee County School District, wearing tiaras, feather boas and pink T-shirts with their team name, “Diabetes Divas.”
“There are so many students with juvenile diabetes in schools,” Hiers said. “I think it’s a great thing to see all this support.”
Jessica Johnson came to the walk for her 7-year-old son, Lance. He was diagnosed with Type One diabetes on his sixth birthday.
“It’s difficult at first,” Johnson said. “But when you consider all the other kids that have to deal with cancer, Lance deals with it very well.”Johnson said there is constant worry, “but you have to let them live life.”Contact Sara Pauff at 706-320-4469